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While the Internet has changed dramatically since the early 1990s, the legal regime governing the right to privacy online and Internet speech is still steeped in a myth of the Internet user, completely hidden from others, in total control of his online experience, and free to come and go as he pleases. This false image of the “virtual self” has also contributed to an ethos of lawlessness, irresponsibility, and radical individuation online, allowing the evisceration of online privacy and the proliferation of hate and harassment.

I argue that the myth of the online anonym is not only false as a matter of technology, but also inaccurate – it does not reflect the sociology of the Internet: who we are online, what we want, and how we engage in Internet society. I argue that decreasing online anonymity, the mediation of our online experiences through intermediaries, and the involuntary nature of much of our online presence require us to reorient the way we think about the right to privacy and freedom of speech online.